Ski

Tales that happen when I got my planks on.

On The Lift With

I’ve sat on plenty of lifts in my day. And while I have sat next to my share of Joey’s and couldn’t wait for my skis to hit the off ramp, the majority of the time I’ve found myself deep in interesting conversation, wanting the ride to continue.

Whether you agree with me or not, riding a chairlift with a stranger is a unique social experience. At the same time you have both nothing and everything in common.You’re free to share too much or say nothing at all. And with a definite end in sight, you’re able to let the conversation run its course, knowing that there are no strings attached when your butts leave the seats.

On The Lift With Jim Cantore

On The Lift With Weather Channel Meteorologist, Jim Cantore

The people you meet on chairlifts are interesting. Their backgrounds vastly different, yet what brought them to your hill – skiing and snow – seemingly universal. Each story seems more unique than the last. Why did they choose your ski hill? What makes them tick? For years I’ve wanted to share these stories, and the people telling them, with those not fortunate enough to be riding a chair with us. But where? And how?

The “where” fell into my lap when I started working at Alta Ski Area. Seventy-five years of people, stories and personalities were, and still are, waiting to be uncovered. After talking with people and seeing their expressions, it was plainly obvious that the written word would not do these stories justice. It had to be video. With the “where” and “how” taken care of, “On The Lift With” was born.

The goal of “On The Lift With” is simple – Uncover and introduce you to the people and personalities that make Alta the quirky, unique and historic place that it is from the only place that makes sense – the lift.

Here’s a look at the five episodes from this season:

What do you think? Is there anything you’d change about “On the Lift With” for the 2013-2014 season?

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Multi Sport Season

For most people there are four seasons: Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall. But when it comes to the state of Utah, there is one season not mentioned in the previous four that rules them all – Multi Sport Season.

By definition, Multi Sport Season is the short window of time when the cool, yet dry, weather of late Winter pairs with the warm, long days of Spring creating the unique opportunity to experience silly good skiing and quality mountain biking and/or trail running in the same day.

Disclaimer: I totally made up that “definition.”

I may be biased, but I’m pretty sure no other destination, city or state, offers the quality and quantity of Multi Sport days like Salt Lake City and Utah do. Sound off if you disagree.

From making turns at Alta to hittin’ the singletrack on Antelope Island, here’s what this year’s Multi Sport Season in Utah has looked like to me:

First Tracks in Main Chute. Approximately 11 a.m., Friday, April 26

First Tracks in Main Chute. Approximately 11 a.m., Friday, April 26

Trail running Salt Lake City

Trail running on Jack’s Peak. Approximately 7:00 pm, Friday, April 26

And one more example, just for good measure:

East Castle Alta Ski Area

Topping out on Alta’s East Castle hike. Approximately 10 a.m., Saturday, March 16

Biking on Antelope Island

Mountain Biking on Antelope Island. Approximately 2:30 pm, Saturday, March 16

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Earning it Inbounds

Earning it is an art at Alta Ski Area. And while the “earning” part of this phrase takes many forms – traversing, side stepping, boot packing – the “it” means only one thing – fresh, untracked snow.

Alta Ski Area

The “it”: Blue on white. Photo: Joe Johnson

Perched at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon and annually coated in 500″ of the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” Alta offers 2,200 acres of some of the best skiable terrain in North America. From Baldy Shoulder off of the top of Wildcat Chair to East Castle off of Supreme Chair, signature stashes call out to skiers promising first tracks and guaranteeing snow in their face.

So, why isn’t all of Alta tracked all of the time? The answer can be found in an old Alta adage – “Ain’t no side step like an Alta side step.” Translation: You gotta earn it and it ain’t easy.

Alta Ski Area

Sidestep. Photo: Joe Johnson

Every resort has its own hikes. Yet no other resort requires its skiers “earn it” quite like Alta does. Baldy’s Main Chute and Little Chute, require a sturdy bootpack that tops out at 11,500 feet in elevation. Devil’s Castle asks skiers to to participate in the traverse side step combo move. At 30+ minutes, East Castle offers up what might be the longest side step in North America. The best of the Backside is only accessible via a side step-traverse-side step-traverse. Gunsight, Eddie’s High Nowhere, the list goes on . . .

Alta Ski Area

Top of the Baldy booter. Photo: Joe Johnson

While this may turn off some skiers, it’s the reason many, including myself, love skiing at Alta. If you don’t like what’s downhill from the tips of your skis . . . just go farther. Some will call it quits too early. Others will make their way into the backcountry. Meanwhile, I’ll be making my way to the inbounds goods. Believe me, the payoff at the end is well worth the pain in the present.

Adam Clark Alta Ski Area

Kalen Thorien and Caroline Gleich enjoy the view from the top of East Castle. Photo: Adam Clark

Baldy Alta Ski Area

The view from Baldy. Photo: Joe Johnson

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95 Years Young

George Jedenoff is 95 years old. His voice, a smooth mix of confidence and experience that could only come from life fully lived, has a way of putting you at ease. His eyes are gentle. His skin, weathered from many a day on the slopes, tells the story of what this man loves most – skiing.

George Jedeoff Alta Ski Area

George Jedenoff

I met George on Wednesday at Alta Ski Area’s Alf’s Restaurant. I’d heard about his story and was hoping to get a photo of him, and if I was lucky, make a few turns. He greeted me with a firm handshake, followed by one simple request:

“Would it be possible to make this quick and skip lunch? I want to get in as much skiing as possible before I have to catch my flight home.”

Coming from most people, this request might seem weird, maybe even presumptuous. But not George.

Born in 1917 in Russia, George and his family up and left their homeland for the U.S. via the Trans Siberian Railway at the height of the Russian Revolution. After living and working in the Midwest, George landed in Utah where he decided to take up skiing at the suggestion of Earl Miller, the inventor of releasable bindings. In 1960, at the age of 43, George skied at Alta for the first time, starting a lifelong love affair with the sport of skiing and Alta Ski Area. From taking lessons and learning the art of skiing from Alf Engen to becoming the only lifetime season pass holder in Alta Ski Area history, George has left a unique and memorable mark on Alta both past and present.

Riding up the Sugarloaf Chair with George, I got a glimpse at what makes Alta, and the sport of skiing, so special. From favorite runs and gear to historic events and developments, he spoke with a sincerity that I have yet to experience at any time or from any person in my life. I hopped off of the chair, not thinking I could be more inspired and impressed by this man. I was wrong.

Should I ski slow? Should I wait? Should I ski behind him? All of these questions were put to rest as George dropped into the run carving confident, text book, parallel turns. On piste and off piste, George’s technique and energy blew me away. With a smile on his face the whole run, George showed me that no matter how old you are, or how long you’ve been skiing, that loving what you are doing is what matters most.

I don’t know if I’m going to be skiing when I’m 95. Hell, I don’t even know if I’ll live to reach that ripe old age. But I do know one thing – I will never take a day of skiing for granted again. Rain, snow or shine, I will click into my skis with a smile on my face, thankful for the chance to be doing something I love.

As you can see, I ended up getting my photo of George. And while my photo gives you a glimpse at the man, the folks from Ski Utah were able put together this great edit that gives you a glimpse at the person. Enjoy.

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Spring Skiing

Give me blue skies, spring conditions on the slopes, and a pair of skis and I’ll be the happiest guy on the hill. This past weekend I got the chance to ski Snowbird with former Hot Dog stunt skier turned photographer/videographer, Bob Legasa. Was I nervous to be skiing with one of the stars of a cult classic? Hell yeah. The man threw down more classic tricks during that movie than I have in all of my years of skiing. Don’t get me wrong, I was still dropping spread eagles and daffys all over the place. After all, that’s what spring skiing is all about. And as you can see from the smile on my face, I was having a blast. From hot laps down Peruvian Basin and creamy turns on the Cirque to aprés beers on the tram deck and shots from the one-and-only Shotz Ski, we did spring skiing right.

Photo Credit: Bob Legasa

Photo Credit: Bob Legasa

Photo Credit: Bob Legasa

Photo Credit: Bob Legasa

Boots and flip flops - There is something seriously awesome and wrong with this photo.

Photo Credit: Bob Legasa

A big thank you to Bob, Scott Evans (Shotz Ski) and Eric Wilson for a killer afternoon. Where are you getting your spring turns in this year?

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Is Epic Necessary?

“The storm dropped more than a foot in a day and a half, and left a sparkling blue sky in its wake. It wasn’t epic by any means, but whether or not something is epic is not how we should define our skiing experiences. Perhaps one of the reasons we skiers have found ourselves in such a predicament lately is that somehow, somewhere everyone decided that the only skiing worth doing was the kind that left us gasping for air and/or scared to death. While it’s good to test our limits and seek out adventure, we shouldn’t be afraid to pull back on the reins, or god forbid, enjoy a day of variable snow. Plus, I’m tired of being scared. I’m tired of being scared for my friends. And after this winter, I’m especially tired of hearing people complain about having less than amazing snow. Just give me a skin track, a chairlift or two, free parking, and the perspective to see my ridiculous good fortune at being able to ski, period, and I’ll be happy. We shouldn’t have to ask for something to be epic in order for it to be worthy day in the mountains.” – Matt Hansen, Powder Magazine

Epic days were definitely not the drink of choice in Utah this winter. In fact, epic days were not even on the menu. I had great days. I had memorable days. And I sure as hell had plenty of fun days. But epic . . . not so much. And you know what? This doesn’t bother me one bit. Because in the end I was skiing. While some people were stuck in traffic, I was on top of a mountain. While some folks were working out in a gym, I was setting a skin track. And while some people were watching TV, I was making turns. Is epic necessary? No. But skiing definitely is.

I think every person who calls themselves a skier should read these words by Matt Hansen. The man truly hits the nail on the head. Once youv’e done that, turn your computer off and go skiing.

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Slackcountry Saturday

I woke up Friday morning to an unexpected storm that proceeded to drop 12″ of the “Greatest Snow on Earth” on the Wasatch Mountains. This welcome, and much needed, taste of winter was then followed up by 50-60 degree temperatures. Yup, just another spring weekend in Utah. Question – What does one do with such a sweet little gift from Mother Nature? Answer – Take full advantage.

At 9 a.m. Wes, myself, Lauran and Ski Utah Powderhound, Matt Baydala, caught first chair at Canyons Resort with our sights set on 9990. From the top of 9990 we made a boot pack beeline for the infamous Square Top whose steep slopes offer what most consider the best skiing in the Park City area. Honestly, there’s no better feeling in the world than when you’re standing on the top of an untracked run, with your best friends, getting ready to drop in. It’s unbeatable. And believe me, the turns we made on Square Top did not dissappoint. Long, consistent vertical paired with deep snow is always a good combination.

After another ride up 9990 followed by a scenic boot pack to the top of Dutch’s Draw, we clicked into our skis and headed across the ridge for Main Mac. A quick side step brought us to the top of a completely untouched, untracked, and unblemished bowl. Naturally, it didn’t stay that way for long as one after the other we dropped in, arching long, deep turns down Mac’s shoulder.

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Now fully in “powderhound” mode, we slapped on the skins and headed for the zone known as “Powder Puff.” The gradual yet scenic route climbs along a ridge offering views of West Monitor to your left and Canyons Resort to your right. Once you reach the top you’re treated to a panoramic view of the Wasatch range. From the Jordanelle Reservoir to the Cottonwood Canyons and their four resorts (Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, Solitude), you can see it all. Dropping in on Powder Puff, we were rewarded with top-to-bottom turns full of face shots. Feel free to disagree, but I’m pretty sure there’s nothing better than being the first one to get to the goods.

Looking to finish strong, Wes and I hopped on 9990, took the boot pack to the top and dropped off the back side towards Desolation Lake. A quick skin brought us to the rim of the bowl that surrounds Desolation Lake. After ripping skins, we dropped in on a north facing, treed run that was so good we had to do another. Following another quick skin, we dropped in on an open face that funneled into a north facing aspect offering perfectly spaced trees and the deepest, softest snow of the day. Skinning up for the last time, we hiked out of Desolation basin and up to the shoulder of Square Top where we skied our final run, again untracked, back to Red Pine Road and from there back to the base of Canyons Resort.

Start time: 9 a.m.
End time: 3:30 p.m.
Total Runs (not including groomers): 6
Total Tracks Crossed During Runs: 0

Sitting on the deck of the Umbrella Bar with PBR’s in hand, turns were re-told, runs were relived and laughs were shared. It had ben an amazing day to say the least. We had just skied fresh powder from first chair to last skin  . . . on April 7. Some folks will never experience such a feat. But to those who live in Utah it’s just another slackcountry Saturday.

If you need visual proof of the tale I told above, check out the edit that Matt put together.

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